We asked director of the Absolute Wilderness Adventure Race Nathan Fa'avae to give us the run down on all the previous editions of the race and what he thought the highlights were. How many have you done? Were you there for the wild 2018 Reefton race?!
Inaugural events are always special and exciting testing a new model and pioneering into unknowns. Murchison is a hub of adventure possibility with wilderness areas every direction you look, plus the world class white water rivers, it’s all there. The goal for the event was to get the long course teams into alpine regions and for the shorter races to take them to places they hadn’t been to. We achieved that goal and the common theme in post event discussion was the high level of adventure the races had. Certainly for me having teams on the Mole Tops was awesome, it was a superb bluebird day. People went away knowing that the Absolute Wilderness event is authentic, the real deal, premium courses and event management, that’s the story we wanted to be told.
The reality is the event could be held in Murchison every year and have new dynamic courses. This year we built the course around Granity Rapid, a solid class 3-4 drop on the Upper Buller River that would ensure excitement and adrenaline flowing as fast as the river itself. We wanted the Absolute Wilderness Race to build the reputation as high quality experiences and we knew Granity provided that. The Owen Valley contained excellent biking and hiking stages with interesting navigation.
While Murchison was providing the goods, we decided to venture south to make it easier for Canterbury teams to participate and we had a novel idea for a course near Hanmer. The Waiau River has some excellent gorges and it’s easy to get remote quickly. The majority of the course was on private land which made it fresh ground for all the teams racing. My memory of the race was a responding to an emergency call that there was an injured participant calling for help, after our SAR staff team rushed to the scene, it transpired to be a bleating goat.
I had always wanted to base an event at Rainbow Ski Area in the summer and this was the opportunity. The alpine basins are spectacular zones and having teams traveling the ridge lines and exploring the area was the vision. The access road to the mountain was ideal for mountain biking and the Wairau River is another gem for rafting. The whole event was based around the ski area so it had a wild and isolated feel. Heavy fog did shorten the hiking stage for many teams but again the event proved that it was taking people to real mountain environments.
The Gentle Annie gorge was the centre piece of the event. The first time I paddled through there I decided it’d have to be part of a race one day. Reefton is another highly desirable destination for adventure sport and the course options were abundant. In the pre event newsletters we constantly briefed the teams that this course was feral, rough and out there! It ended up being more than that, with a weather bomb exploding on race day. To say it threw the event into survival mode wouldn’t be an understatement. It was Armageddon. A legacy was born. The 3-hour event was postponed until the Sunday and that ran smoothly. An epic weekend. If you raced Reefton … respect.
We needed to dry out after Reefton so we headed to MacKenzie Country. High alpine, big lakes, bigger valleys, wide open spaces. We narrowly dodged another weather bomb with a southerly front advancing with snow, it hit late on Saturday thankfully, so most teams were safe inside. Teams will remember the event for the views and some really fun sections of the course, technical mountain biking, tricky navigation. It was another excellent adventure and worth of an Absolute Wilderness Race. It is the best one-day adventure race around and we know it!
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